Stop Drinking for Good

Emily Tamberino

As “Dry January” comes to a close, consider the idea of cutting alcohol out of your life altogether. While drinking has been normalized for centuries, and is often ingrained in the culture of ski resort communities, the truth is that beer, wine and spirits are actually comprised of ethyl alcohol or ethanol, a highly flammable chemical that is also used as a fuel additive or industrial solvent. While ethanol is safe for consumption, the short- and long-term effects of alcohol are detrimental to physical and mental health. 

Some drinkers might have already stopped reading because they feel their level of alcohol consumption is safe. Most of us know that high levels of consumption (an average 12-24 drinks/week or more) can lead to the development of chronic disease and other problems. If you’re still reading, have you considered 12-24 drinks is an average per week, which could equate to 2-3 glasses of wine or beer per day, or 4-5 drinks per day on the weekends?

The Centers for Disease Control warns that high levels of alcohol consumption can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, accelerated aging, stroke, liver disease, cancer, digestive problems, weakening of the immune system and mental health disorders. It’s also detrimental to brain function. And, while there has long been a debate over the value of moderate alcohol consumption (one drink per day or less), a recent study published in Nature Communications found “the negative associations between alcohol intake and brain macrostructure and microstructure are apparent in individuals consuming an average of only one to two daily alcohol units, and become stronger as alcohol intake increases.” The study used multimodal imaging data from 36,678 generally healthy middle-aged and older adults from the UK Biobank. It showed that low or moderate drinking can absolutely cause brain degeneration. Another study published in The Lancet concluded that “the safest level of drinking is none.” Examining data from hundreds of studies and sources, the study found that for those ages 15-49, alcohol was the leading risk factor for death and disability worldwide.

Need more reasons to quit drinking? Here are 10 from the University of Maryland Medical System:

  1. You’ll sleep better.
  2. You’ll probably lose weight.
  3. You’ll save money.
  4. You’ll lower your risk of cancer.
  5. Your internal organs will be less stressed and your immune system will get stronger.
  6. You’ll decrease your risk of dementia.
  7. You’ll feel less anxious and depressed.
  8. You’ll decrease the risk of developing alcohol use disorder.
  9. Your friends and family will be relieved.
  10. You’ll feel better about yourself.

It might not be easy to stop drinking. If you’re a chronic drinker, you might experience symptoms of withdrawal. Eliminating alcohol from your life might be a process, and you’ll want to consider strategies to support your decision. The American Addiction Centers offers the following tips to help you stop drinking:
  1. Write down your reasons for wanting to stop drinking. Listing the positive impact this can have on your body, mental health, finances, relationships, and other areas of your life can help keep you motivated.
  2. Explore your current relationship with alcohol. You may want to consider why you drink, such as socializing or coping with stress, and how much you drink. Keeping track of how much and how often you drink and how you feel when you drink can be especially helpful.
  3. Consider whether you want to cut back or stop drinking completely. Talk to your doctor to decide what makes the most sense for you right now. Think about your habits. Can you stop drinking once you start? Try taking days off from drinking or pacing yourself when you do drink by not having more than one alcoholic beverage in one hour.
  4. Remove alcohol from the house. It is a lot easier to cut back or stop drinking completely when alcohol isn’t readily accessible.
  5. Set aside time for self-care. Ensure that you take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating properly, getting exercise, and meditating. These practices provide healthy alternatives to drinking.
  6. Reach out for support. Encouraging friends and family members can help reinforce your decision and help you manage difficult situations.
  7. Attend a formal rehab treatment program. Sometimes it may be hard to stop on your own and a formal treatment program with structured schedules and therapies can help you to overcome your addiction.
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